105,000 Doctors Wined, Dined By Opioid Makers

Big Pharma incentives “subtle, widespread, involving many physicians”

(Alan Mozes, HealthDay) Doctors who accept perks from companies that make opioid painkillers are more likely to prescribe the drugs for their patients, new research suggests.

The money in question paid doctors for meals, consulting and speaking fees, and travel expenses.

Typically, doctors receive less than $1,000 per year, said lead investigator Dr. Scott Hadland.

Less than 2 percent of physicians get more than that, so many doctors “probably believe such relatively small amounts are not influencing their practice,” he added. “But, put simply, the data shows that it is.”

The drug industry trade group PhRMA would not comment on the findings.

Hadland said that, on average, opioid prescription rates among physicians receiving these perks rose by about 9 percent in the year following payment. Opioid painkillers include Oxycontin and Vicodin.

“Unlike prior investigations that have focused on the impact of huge payments to a small group of doctors, what we found is much more subtle but much more widespread, involving many physicians,” he noted.

“And while we see a trend for a small drop in the number of opioid prescriptions now being written by doctors, that is not the case among physicians who receive an opioid marketing payment,” Hadland added. Their opioid prescription rates, he said, went up.

Hadland is an addiction expert at Boston Medical Center. He and his colleagues reported their findings in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers pointed out that 40 percent of all overdose deaths in the United States are attributable to prescription opioids.

And despite recent declines in overall prescribing rates, the number of prescriptions issued in 2015 was three times the number issued in 1999.

The review of a federal database revealed that roughly 369,000 doctors had prescribed opioids to Medicare recipients in 2015. Of these, 7 percent had accepted more than 105,000 different opioid-related marketing payments in 2014, cumulatively valued at more than $9 million. READ THE FULL STORY AT WEBMD. IMAGE: STAT NEWS

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